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Friday, May 3, 2013

Wallingford Town councilors plan to raise mayor’s salary gradually

As published in the Record Journal Friday May 3, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — While town councilors successfully voted to increase the mayor’s salary Tuesday night, some believe the position’s salary still needs to be increased more in coming years.

A unanimous vote cast by the Town Council Tuesday night brought the mayor’s annual pay to $85,140. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., a Republican, kept his salary at$73,140 in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year — a figure that has not changed in about 12 years.

Councilors voted to increase the mayor’s salary by $12,000. The increase will go into effect after Dickinson’s current term ends because, under the Town Charter, an incumbent mayor’s compensation cannot be changed during his or her term.

Councilors would like to see the mayor’s pay incrementally increased to about $130,000,which they see as more in line with similar positions in similar municipalities. Democrats argue that they need to be able to attract qualified candidates to run against Dickinson, while Republicans want to attract qualified candidates once Dickinson decides to step down.

“I’m content with what occurred if the plan is to continue to do so until it’s brought up to a reasonable number,” Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, said Thursday. Zandri is a candidate in the upcoming mayoral race. Dickinson has yet to announce his candidacy.

Zandri said the “smart way to do it” would be to gradually raise the mayor’s salary over the next four or five terms. A term lasts two years. A smart salary range for the position is between $135,000 and $140,000, Zandri said.

As of 2011, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback was paid $149,000 per year; Meriden City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior was paid $139,000 annually and Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone earned $131,350 per year.

Zandri said the Town Council is hampered by the fact that past councils haven’t voted to change the mayor’s salary over the previous 12 years.

Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, a Republican, said he had a brief conversation with Dickinson urging him to accept the raise.

“We’d like to gradually bring it to more-competitive pay,” Cervoni said.

Dickinson has argued that accepting raises sets a bad example. Cervoni said Dickinson acknowledged that the raise wasn’t for him personally, but for the position. Reached by phone on Thursday, Dickinson declined to comment.

With leaders in similar-size towns being paid almost twice as much as Dickinson, Town Councilor Tom Laffin, a Republican, said, “We’ve got to do something to incrementally raise the mayor’s salary.”

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, a Republican, said that the mayor’s salary needs to be increased incrementally instead of all at once because “we don’t want a shock to the system.”

“The position deserves a raise,” Fishbein said, adding that in 2004 the Town Council attempted to raise the mayor’s pay but Dickinson vetoed the budget, voiding the increase.